Print Turn off computer and game systems to battle youth obesity
Written by Trista Steers MacVittie   
Friday, 21 October 2011 00:00

Thanks to video games and processed foods, today’s children face a problem many of us didn’t worry about until we were adults.

To me as a child, weight was something they calculated each year in gym class and not something talked about much otherwise.

Today, it’s on the minds of those who deal with youth as America’s obesity epidemic infiltrates the younger generation.

Watching your weight was once something people didn’t normally worry about until they were adults and daily activity became less common.

However, today’s kids don’t get the same exercise those who grew up before them did.

Ad campaigns encourage children to play — as in ride bicycles or run around, not log onto a computer — for 30 minutes to an hour each day or to walk to school rather than take a ride.

Not to sound like my parents always did, but when I was a kid they had to beg us to come inside at the end of the day, not urge us to go out.

I’m a product of a video game generation, but my parents didn’t allow us to own any game systems. We had a television, but it only transmitted a few channels, and my mom was in charge of what was on. So unless we wanted to watch soap operas or law shows, television wasn’t going to entertain us.

Instead, my dad built us a tree house in the front yard, we rode our bicycles all over the neighborhood, and we played games and make-believe. Even in the winter my sister and I would suit up in our snow gear and head outside to hitch up the sled and drag it around the yard carrying our dolls — we were pioneers roughing it in the wild West.

Now, as an adult, my sense of adventure and desire to be outside carries through and in turn also helps me stay at a healthy weight now.

Some of today’s children do live the active lifestyle I and so many others did growing up, but the problem is the majority of them don’t.

Between video games, social networking websites and television, kids spend about as much time sitting on their backside as adults do at work. My neighborhood is full of children, but I rarely see any of them outside playing. I jog or bike through the streets at least a couple of times a week, and it’s rare if I encounter any kids.

There is a group of middle-school boys who ride their bicycles and explore vacant land, but even they only make an occasional appearance. Something is wrong when adults in the neighborhood are playing more than the children.

Add to the cocktail of inactivity diets full of processed lunch meats, white bread, potato chips and store-bought cookies, and it’s no wonder young people today have weight issues. I didn’t want to eat Brussels sprouts or broccoli when I was a kid either, but I didn’t have much choice in the matter.

The only way kids have a chance to stay fit and avoid health-related issues associated with obesity is to play more and eat better. Most children aren’t going to take the lead on their own. They need their parents, schools and communities to show them how to live a healthy lifestyle and teach them why it’s important.

At my house we joke it’s a good thing we don’t have kids, because they would think we were the meanest parents ever. We would ban video games, get rid of our television and limit computer time.